EU Funded Project Records Successes in School Based Drug Prevention in Nigeria

Abuja, 3 February 2021- John started using tramadol to handle his grieve and anxieties after losing his parents in a car accident. His use became quickly so excessive that he was no longer able to attend school eventually dropping out altogether at the age of sixteen. Unfortunately, John’s story is emblematic for an ever-increasing number of young Nigerians.

According to the Nigeria Drug Use Survey of 2018 there are over 14.4% of the population between 15-64 years who have used either an illicit drug consumed a pharmaceutical drug for non-medical purposes during the preceding 12 months. Thus, drug use prevalence in Nigeria is among the highest globally.

Drug use was found to be most common among 25 and 39 years old. However, more recently collected data suggests that first-time drug users may be on average becoming younger. The Nigerian Epidemiology Network on Drug Use NENDU 5-Year Report (NENDU) examined the demand for treatment in 25 treatment centres in Nigeria from 2015 – 2019. Results showed that 29.7% of the admissions were for people between the ages of 15-24 years.

These numbers called for an urgent intervention aimed to curb the further spread of the drug use epidemic, in particular among young people, through evidence-based prevention programmes. In 2015, UNODC in partnership with the Nigerian Ministry of Education and with the support of the European Union, therefore, commenced the roll-out of the Unplugged Drug Prevention Programme in Nigeria. Unplugged is an evidence-based school drug prevention program comprising of 12 lessons to build life skills in young people making them more resilient to the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. The aim of the programme was to curb initiation of drug use and delay the transition from experimental to addicted behaviour involving alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other drugs.

In the first round, the project delivered training to 410 teachers from 104 secondary schools. In the meanwhile, many teachers trained in the delivery of UNPLUGGED have received refresher courses, and a core group of eight master trainers has been certified who continue to train and mentor teachers in the delivery of UNPLUGGED. Nigerian master trainers have also delivered the UNPLUGGED training to teachers in Liberia.

The implementation of the programme was closely monitored and evaluated to assess its impact. Each phase of the initial pilot testing of the programme was followed by a physical visit to the school and interviews with teachers implementing the programme as well as focus group discussions with the students. Results have been encouraging.

In a study carried out by UNODC and Ministry of Education to evaluate the implementation of the programme 90% of students indicated that UNPLUGGED had helped to improve their decision making and choices, with many students stating that their ability to manage and resist peer pressure in particular when it came to drug use had improved. For 82%, it improved the vision of themselves and for 80% the relationship with their school mates. Teachers found the units easy to lead and referred an improvement of teaching skills, knowledge about substances, relationship with the students and class climate. As a result of the programme, schools also became aware of specific incidents of drug use in the school and to address those more effectively.

One school administrator noted:

“Our teachers find these lessons interesting. We are benefitting greatly from the program as there are visible changes seen. Student-teacher relationship has greatly improved. It can even be seen from their math grades”.

One student shared:

“My Uncle is a drunkard and I used to be afraid of him, but with UNPLUGGED now I am no longer afraid and when I went back after the UNPLUGGED I talked to him about the bad effects of the drinking and he has stopped”